Dear Mr. President,
Let me preface this letter by saying that I am writing to you as a supporter—a concerned supporter, yes, but a supporter nonetheless. So let what follows be constructive criticism. I’m not Fox (faux) News or Rush Limbaugh; I’m not Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity; I don’t think you’re a racist like Glenn Beck and I can’t see Russia from my house like Sarah Palin can. But I am concerned. It’s not so much about the economy. You’ve stopped most of the bleeding, saved the banking industry (which in turn prevented an entire financial collapse), and injected stimulus (which should have been bigger) into the economy. So, economically, you’ve done okay.
However, there are three issues that make me question whether you’re as strong as I perceived, or merely a man of empty words and promises like so many of your critics claimed throughout the campaign. First off is the issue of health care. I understand that you’ve had to deal with Democrats who lack ambition and Republicans who refuse to cooperate, but with a filibuster majority in the Senate, the progress on health care, or lack thereof, is unacceptable. Fourteen thousand Americans lose their health coverage every day while politicians argue like schoolchildren in the Capitol, calling each other names, screaming “You lie,” and making up completely fallacious claims about death panels and coverage for illegal immigrants. Now, granted, the Baucus Bill just passed the Senate Finance Committee. However, at what cost? It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Democrats at best. Face it Mr. President—it was a watered-down bill and it wasn’t what you wanted. It had no public option and no employer mandate. It lacked strong penalties for those who didn’t obtain available insurance, and it left 17 million people uninsured. Your effort is better than Clinton’s, but it’s still not enough. You said in your speech in early September to a joint session of Congress that this is “the season for action.” It’s almost winter and I’m still waiting for bold, decisive action.
The second issue is Afghanistan. Obviously, the situation we’re in right now is none of your doing. George Bush’s capricious decision to enter Iraq and deny resources to the war effort in Afghanistan is one of the biggest foreign affairs blunders of the past couple of decades. However, you ran for the job, and it is now your mess to clean up. You’ve had the right mindset. Appointing the more ambitious General Stanley McChrystal, retaining a tough secretary of defense in Robert Gates, and promising to deploy more troops have all been positive decisions. However, as with health care and the economy, you simply aren’t doing enough. I understand the war has become incredibly unpopular, and that raising troop levels is almost politically untenable, but you have to make your decisions based on the best interests of the country and not on political tenability. General McChrystal has called for 40,000 more troops and you’ve responded with a quiet deployment of 13,000.
Whether your reluctance to follow McChrystal’s recommendations is a result of your recent Nobel Prize, I cannot say. I can say, Mr. President, that if you want any chance of winning this war and being a two term president, half measures cannot be taken. With issues like Afghanistan, it’s all or nothing. And if you continue to vacillate over your decisions and fail to take decisive action, you’ll be sending several thousand more brave men and women to their deaths with nothing to show for it. You know your fellow Democrats are wrong. You know that leaving Afghanistan is much more pernicious to the country’s security than persevering. Ignore Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and do what needs to be done. Adapt to the new circumstances. Al-Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan, terrorism has continued to destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan, and with every day of inaction, every day without a new strategy for the Af-Pak war, the situation worsens. Don’t let it become your Vietnam, Mr. President. Don’t make that mistake. For the first time in my life, I agree with Dick Cheney. I think you’re afraid. And I didn’t support a candidate who governs out of fear.
The same goes for my final issue—gay rights and, specifically, the completely insensible “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. You promised that you would abolish the rule. And why not? It is a travesty and one of the most idiotic policies ever implemented. Since the policy was enacted in 1994, over 13,000 able and willing soldiers have been discharged from the army, including myriad vital Arab linguists, which are in extremely high demand, simply because of their sexual orientation. When you’re spread thin militarily and short on Arab linguists, how does it make any sense to discharge the people you truly need based on whether or not they are gay? These are Americans who are capable and willing to fight and die for their country, and you tell them no? I’m starting to see some truth in the criticism of you as weak during the campaign. Please, prove me wrong. Don’t be a president of empty rhetoric and undelivered promises. Don’t let this issue slip down on your priority list. In the words of Jon Stewart, “You’re the president of the United States. If you have too much on your plate, get a bigger plate!” You gave an impassioned speech to the Human Rights Council, reiterating your promise to the LGBT community in the country that you would fight for their rights. If you renege on that promise, if you break your word due to political tenability, if you are too much of a coward to enforce what is morally correct, then, Mr. President, you don’t deserve the office you hold any more than your predecessor. You’ve said time and again that the American people are going to have to make “hard decisions.” You need to be held to the same standard.